I remember as a wee nerd, hearing about this Bill James fellow. I went to the public library to get one of his books, and I came away with the only one they had, The Politics of Glory. The part I remember most is about arbitrary milestones. If you want to make a deceptive argument for players in the Hall, you just have to cherry-pick the arbitrary milestones. It's a great read.
So, I kind of want to do that with Pablo Sandoval
This was prompted by Andrew Baggarly's speculation on CSN that if the Giants don't get an extension done before the end of spring, that this is probably Sandoval's last season as a Giant. There's an emotional response to this, but please remember these emotions would have made you dance when Tim Lincecum's $140 million contract was announced. Bad emotions, bad!
What I want, then, is some actual factual information to convince me that the Giants should sign Pablo Sandoval to a hefty deal, pun not intended at first but kept in after a re-read. There's the part where the Giants don't have an internal option at third, unless you're a believer in Adam Duvall, who is just under two years younger than Sandoval. And there's the part where Sandoval's good, even when everyone's complaining that he's bad. Then there's the part where he's really good when everyone's convinced he's okay.
The best way to make one of these arguments is to start using Sandoval's young success as a blunt object, and surround him with names you recognize. Fancy sorts of All Stars and Hall of Famers. Using players with 2,500 plate appearances before the age of 27 as the cutoff, let's see where Sandoval ranks as a hitter.
Also, I wrote the intro before doing the research, so this better work.
Adjusted OPS is a nice, park-adjusted stat that was invented to make Giants hitters look better than you think they are. At least, I think that was how it came to be. And Sandoval's career OPS+ is 127.
Who else had at least 2,500 plate appearances before turning 28 with an OPS of 127? Carlos Delgado, lefty slugger who was a force into his mid-30s. Bobby Bonilla, who was so good, he's still being paid by the Mets today. Bobby Grich, who should be in the Hall of Fame, and Rafael Palmeiro, who certainly could be. Reggie Smith and Heinie Groh, who are strong Hall of Nearly Greaters. Yogi Berra, a Hall of Famer. And Jeff Burroughs, a large, cherubic third baseman whose body broke down in his early 30s, never allowing him to reach his full potential.
Dammit, Burroughs, I'm working here.
Just below a 127 OPS+: Cal Ripken, Andre Dawson, Rod Carew, and Dale Murphy. See? Sandoval's basically a Hall of Famer already.
OPS+ for 3B
Let's look just at third basemen, then.
|2||Home Run Baker||153|
|16||Jim Ray Hart||131|
That's some mighty fine company. And it's a reminder that the Giants traded Madlock for Fred Breining, Al Holland, and Ed Whitson. But then the Giants traded Holland for Mark Davis and Mike Krukow, then they traded Mark Davis for Dave Dravecky and Kevin Mitchell, before trading Kevin Mitchell for Dave Burba and Bill Swift, which lead to trading Dave Burba for Deion Sanders, and that's how I ended up getting kicked out of Candlestick one cold Friday night for drunkenly yelling at Deion Sanders about him signing with the Cowboys like a jackass.
Sorry, that wasn't the point. The point is that Sandoval is, historically, a solid second-tier third baseman. Most of those players aged well enough, in which well enough is defined as "producing into their early 30s." A five-year deal for Sandoval would take him through his age-32 season, and I'm a-ok with that risk. A six- or seven-year deal wouldn't even freak me out that much.
Sandoval slips in the WAR rankings because he's missed too much time with broken bones, but he still acquits himself well there, too. Once the Giants get the malk out of the clubhouse, they'll be fine. Sandoval has already proven himself to be one of the game's better third basemen, and I'm optimistic enough to think that once he gets his big contract, he won't start snorting fried duck skin. I'd like to think he's just growing up and realizing the importance of staying healthy. Another team will, certainly, this offseason, and they'll pay for those beliefs.
I hope that team is the Giants.